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Welcome Downton Abbey fans.  It’s a spooky Tea Tuesday, Halloween is a day away, and the East coast of US and Canada coping with the effects from Hurricane Sandy.  We have had high gusting winds and pouring rain in our area, but fortunately no damage. I pray you are taking necessary precautions to keep you, your family and your community safe.  If you are out of harms way, but have no power,  you should be fine with a well stocked pantry.  Just try to imagine you are living in the Edwardian era when there was no electricity.

UK fans will be viewing the Season 3 finale next Sunday, while Americans are looking forward to the Jan. 6 PBS launch.  There really is something special about watching Downton on PBS Masterpiece. 

Join me each Tuesday as I dish on Downton Abbey, the Royal Family, UK tourism and other topical tea issues one might discuss at tea, served up with a tea treat recipe with history. You may find my Online Guide to Afternoon Tea helpful in understanding traditions and recipes to serve at your own tea party. In honor of the holiday, today’s treat is Irish Barnbrack, traditionally served at Halloween.

Spreading the Word: Anyone can be a Downton Abbey Cook

A heart felt thank you for sharing my passion for Downton Abbey, history and food. Connect with me on Twitter, Facebook, Pinterest and YouTube. And keep sending me your pics.

NEW Downton Abbey Pinterest Board:  Downton Abbey UK has just launched the Eat Drink & Be Merry Pinterest Board which already has 4700 followers.  I am honored to have been invited to be the Curator of the Board.

A few interviews about my passion for encouraging fans to pick up a spatula and become a Downton Abbey Cook:

VPT’s Experience Inspired by Downton Abbey: Jan. 5/6

Vermont Public Television is hosting a Downton inspired culinary weekend January 5th/6th to launch Season 3 at the renowned Essex Resort. Lord D and I look forward to this wonderful event of fabulous Downton food and festivity, with a Saturday night screening of S3E1 on a large screen. Tickets are now on sale.

Corporate Sponsers:  If your corporation would like to help support this event through sponsorship contact Michael D Ellenbogen at michael@eonscreative.com, 802-768-8498.

Dishing Downton

As the season winds down, there is less news coming from the UK  to share about our favorite show.  I have been trying to behave by not give away too many spoilers, or passing along gossip, as Hugh Bonneville keeps reminding me you can’t  believe everything you read.

A comforting thought

  • Jessica Fellowes’ personal connection with Downton Abbey.  Fans have developed their own attachment to Downton, but Jessica shares her story of how the characters of Downton are reflections of her own family members, brought to screen by her uncle Julian Fellowes. Her lovely new book (see below) is a must have.
  • Become a Downton #teamservant.  Downton Abbey has done a great job to engage fans online. The latest is to support the servants in the series. Do check out the hashtag on Twitter.
  • Halloween costumes: Who are you going to be for Halloween?  Are you dressing up in fine gowns as Mary, Sybil, Violet?  A tux to play Robert, Matthew, or in livery and white gloves to be a footman?  I am a team servant so I am putting the finishing touches on my Edwardian apron to finish my Daisy kitchen maid costume.

Downton Abbey Calendar Contest:  Winners

so what was the gift?

This past week we held a contest, offering 2 copies of the new Downton Abbey 2013 Wall Calendar to fans who could tell me what the gift pictured here.

This scene from the Christmas episode is the featured photo for December.  It is actually a publicity shot and does not appear on film.   If you checked the footage, you would see the conversation taking place in the background while Violet opens her nutcracker. So the answer to my question is no, we will never know for sure what the gift was. Winners:  Rachel went the extra mile and checked the footage (she was the only once who was eligible to win), and Caitlin’s response was picked randomly for her unique guess of gift.

  • Rachel Buchman from Atlanta, Georgia
  • Caitlin Demmett from Bellmore, New York

Irish Origins of Halloween

I love how we can trace traditions back to their roots.  Did you know that Halloween has ancient origins in Ireland? It was originally called Samhain, and the day marked the end of the harvest season for Celtic farmers.   Irish immigrants brought their traditions to America and adapted to their new surroundings. Originally, turnips served as Jack o Lanterns, but pumpkins are so much easier to carve. This is a great clip from the History Channel which gives a good overview and links to other Halloween clips.

Traditional Foods

The Irish still celebrate Halloween with two food traditions.

  1. Colcannan is a cabbage and potato dish, also known as bubble and squeak in other parts of the UK.  Here is the recipe for a main course colcannon we prepared earlier this year.
  2. Barmbrack means “speckled cake”.  It is baked in either a loaf pan or cake pan depending on your family tradition.  The brack foretells the future.  Baked with charms, a piece is served to each member of the family, and your piece may contain a charm which will determine your fate:
    • A coin: good things, hopefully riches, on the way
    • A ring: you’ll be married within the year
    • snippet of cloth: rags, poverty, bad luck in the year ahead

Branson’s Barmbrack

Barmbrack means “speckled loaf” in Gaelic

There are two ways to make barmbrack, as a yeast or quick bread.  This is the quick bread recipe with lots of dried fruit which makes a hearty fruit bread to disguise the charms.


  • 2-3 cups of chopped dried fruit (depending on how fruity you like it)
  • 1 cup black tea*
  • 2 cups whole wheat flour
  • 2 tsp. baking powder
  • 1 egg, beaten
  • 1 tsp. cinnamon
  • 1/2 tsp. nutmeg
  • 1/2 tsp. ginger
  • 1/2 tsp. allspice
  • 3/4 cup sugar (or sugar substitute)
  • Honey or Golden Syrup (optional – for decoration)

*l like lapsang souchong which has a smoky flavour, perfect for Halloween.

Makes 1 loaf or cake


  1. Soak the fruit in tea overnight, keep the tea. A shortcut is to heat the fruit and tea in a sauce pan for 15 minutes and then let it cool.
  2. Preheat the oven to 350F and grease a large loaf pan or cake pan
  3. Mix together with the rest of the ingredients (apart from the honey/golden syrup) and stir in the charms which you have wrapped in parchment paper. Mix until combined.  If the dough seems too thick, add some milk or steeped tea.
  4. Bake for 60 minutes or until risen and firm to the touch.
  5. If you like a graze, melt honey or golden syrup and brush over the brack before you are ready to serve.
  6. Serve in slices to your family, but let them know there are charms inside to avoid any possible choking.

Own Your Own

Jessica Fellowes new book is all about Season 3